CineMathematics or CinemaThematics. Your choice

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Another 100 Movies...

It's that time of year again: AFI has unveiled another collection of 100 movies, this time partitioned into collections of 10 by genre. First, we need to remember that comedy and romance both have their own AFI lists. Genres such as Fantasy, Gangster and Western seem like they would make good lists, but Epic? Is Epic a genre? I always thought of it as a scale. Animation is a medium, not a genre, but I guess I'll take it for my beloved Fantasia. Even the definitions of the limitations of each genre are questionable. Field of Dreams has about as much baseball as Jerry Maguire has football. It seems that the genre of Fantasy is more about simple wish fulfillment than what most people think of as a Fantasy film. This could have been a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of the work of Ray Harryhausen, but AFI preferred to let Jimmy Stewart talk to a non-existent rabbit. Where is the fantasy in Harvey? But I don't want to just gripe. There are many things that went absolutely right about these lists.

This is most apparent in the creations of the Gangster and Western lists. Both lists are able to combine undisputed classics (Stagecoach, White Heat) with genre revisions (The Godfather, The Wild Bunch). Of course there are wishes that loose genre definitions could have broadened the Gangster list to include crime films like, say Night and the City (if The Third Man and Lawrence of Arabia count as American films, than so does Night and the City), but that is a minor quibble in the face of the solid lists produced here.

This praise also goes to the Romantic Comedy list with entries ranging from It Happened One Night and Adam's Rib to Annie Hall and Moonstruck. But when raising what is now considered a predominantly feminine genre, I can't help but raise the call of the Siren: where's the melodrama? Surely we could have been spared the Courtroom Drama list and all the A Few Good Mens that come with it. Musicals would also be a pleasant addition to this list of genres, if only because it would give us a reason to look back on Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire again.

If there is one genre which didn't need the representation here, it is Animation. There are lists without surprises and then there is this one. Every list should have at least one entry that makes you look twice and adds a bit of interest to the list; that entry that's obscure enough to make you want to put it on the top of the rental list. Fantasy has The Thief of Baghdad, Western has Red River, and even Science Fiction has Invasion of the Body Snatchers (oh to see the '78 remake on that list instead). Animation by its nature has no obscure great films; well, at least none that could make this list. Classic animation is naturally equated with Disney from very specific periods. There aren't any films between Cinderella in 1950 and Beauty and the Beast in 1991. There are four films from the first Disney Golden Age (1937-1942), and two from the second Golden Age (1990-1994). Even in the similarly limited scope of the Gangster genre, there are films that aren't as noticeable on other lists, such as White Heat and Scarface: The Shame of a Nation. The only thing worth noting in the Animation list is the inclusion of Shrek, the only non-Disney film and itself a parody of Disney fairy tales.

Once again, we are given a list with 100 movies from AFI. Though many will dismiss it as too predictable, the inclusion of films like The Godfather and Lawrence of Arabia should be taken as givens. What makes each list exciting are those odd selections that you can't expect and inspire a reevaluation of that list of movies you need to see. This inspires me to seek out Red River and National Velvet, and that is all I can ask of a list like this.



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